Historic property in Valparaiso burns
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent July 5, 2013 8:27PM
Firefighters try to douse a blaze about 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 5, 2013, at the property housing Needle & Thread in the first block of Jefferson Street in Valparaiso, Ind. | Sun-Times Media~James D. Wolf Jr.
Updated: August 7, 2013 6:15AM
VALPARAISO — A historic downtown building succumbed to fire Friday.
The building at 60 W. Jefferson St., known for housing Needle and Thread quilting and sewing store since 1990, caught fire around 5 p.m.
Valparaiso fire officials said they got a call about the fire around 5:10 p.m. for the old house at the northeast corner of Jefferson and Lafayette streets.
At 7 p.m., the building was still burning, flames shooting out of its Victorian-era turret, which was beginning to collapse.
Valparaiso Police Sgt. Mike Grennes said investigators believe the fire began on the third floor or above it.
Firefighters evacuated the people living on the upper floors of the building.
No one was hurt as of 7:15 p.m.
The Red Cross was also on the scene.
The building appeared to be a total loss, and water poured out of windows as fast as firefighters could shoot it in.
“I’m sure the inside of the building is going to be completely damaged, if not by fire and smoke then water,” Grennes said.
The house was built in 1903, according to local attorney Kathleen Evans, who grew up in the house and still lives downtown.
Evans father was Dr. Paul C. F. Vietzke, a general practitioner and ob/gyn who came to Valparaiso because of the new 35-bed Porter Memorial Hospital.
From 1941 to 1975, Vietzke had his practice on the first floor, and the family — she, a sister, two brothers, her grandmother and her parents — lived in the second and third floors, Evans said.
They also used the full basement, but the doctor had nurses and three or four examining rooms on the first floor.
The turret on the southwest corner used to be a recuperating room where patients would stay a day after minor surgery such as a tonsilectomy.
Her father bought the house in 1941 from the Stinchfield family, who ran a funeral home on the first floor.
The garage to the north was so big because it needed to house the hearse, she said.
Evans said she and her husband walked over to house while it was burning, and she feels that part of her childhood and part of history is lost.
“Valparaiso just doesn’t have that many old homes like that, and it’s a shame to lose it. It was so beautiful,” she said.